Food Programme

BBC Radio 4

Arts, Food

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Arts 181
Food 18

Investigating every aspect of the food we eat


Reconsider the Oyster!

March 9th, 2015

Episode 518 of 621 episodes

Oysters are receiving renewed attention around the world, with new ideas for producing more, and eating more. Dan Saladino finds out what's driving this oyster enthusiasm. As Drew Smith, author of Oyster: A World History explains, "the oyster is older than us, they're older than grass, they go back into pre-history and it's quite mind boggling how we've forgotten we really survive on this planet because of oysters". From discoveries of middens (piles of oyster shells left by our ancestors) through to tales of the Victorian Britain's enormous appetite for the oyster, Dan hears the evidence of why we used to have a much more intimate relationship with the bivalve. Overfishing, disease and parasites turned something that was abundant into a rarity a century ago, but now people around the world are making an effort to bring the oyster back into mainstream. In Denmark, where there still is an abundance of oysters in their waters, a national park along the Wadden Sea, on the north west coast of Denmark has started to encourage people to wade in the water and gather as many oysters as they can carry and eat. It's hoped the experience will help people understand the oyster more and also fight to protect the environment it lives in. Meanwhile on the British Isles the oyster is seeing interest from brewers and shellfish farmers alike, all convinced we need to reconsider how delicious and import the animal has been in our food culture. In New York, the most ambitious oyster mission of all is underway, the "billion oyster project", an effort to return the oyster to New York City's harbour, once a breeding ground for trillions of oysters. Listen to the programme and hear why these efforts are underway, and why a gold speckled jar of marmite could be the oysters' best friend. Produced and presented by Dan Saladino.